It seems someone clued Congress in on the fact that the Universal Camouflage Pattern issued to troops fighting in Afghanistan is far from the ideal. So Congress has told the Army to issue something better. Well, the first word in UCP is after all “Universal” and that makes it a compromise since it has to blend in everywhere. Oddly, Afghanistan is not monochrome and there are a variety of environments to blend in with so ultimately a “Universal” camouflage is what is called for after all. Maybe it just needs to be tuned a bit.
Here is the wording from the Conference Committee Report.
“The conferees understand that soldiers deployed to Afghanistan have serious concerns about the current combat uniform which they indicate provides ineffective camouflage given the environment in Afghanistan. Accordingly, the conferees direct that within funding made available the Department of Defense take immediate action to provide combat uniforms to personnel deployed to Afghanistan with a camouflage pattern that is suited to the environment of Afghanistan.
The conferees further direct the Secretary of the Army to provide a report on the program plans and budgetary adjustments necessary to provide appropriate uniforms to deployed and deploying troops to Afghanistan. The report shall be submitted to the congressional defense committees by the end of fiscal year 2009.”
So Congress wants the Army to reprogram money “immediately” to provide an alternative camo pattern for forces in Afghanistan and report to the Armed Services Committees before the end of the fiscal year on it will be accomplished. Can you imagine how this went over when word reached PEO-Soldier? “The jig is up, they’re on to us”.
Now please remember, that this still isn’t law. The President hasn’t signed it YET but is expected to soon.
So how will this play out? Interesting question, considering when asked just weeks ago at the Soldier Systems APBI about the possibility of alternative camouflage patterns, PEO-Soldier officials gave a curt, “No”. However, it has come to our attention that the 173d Airborne Brigade has been granted approval to wear Multicam during their OEF rotation. So that option seems open…maybe. Alternatively, it is highly unlikely that any new SOCOM patterns will be used by general purpose forces. 3-color desert pattern is still available but was replaced by the “superior” UCP so institutional momentum may veto its use. Desert MARPAT is a possibility, if the Army can wade through the interservice rivalry issues. And finally, what about an entirely new pattern, or old for that matter? Several promising designs were tested by Natick in the 2003-2004 time frame before UCP was adopted virtually out of nowhere.
Ultimately, it is going to be about cost. It isn’t just uniforms. There are a variety of other equipage and accouterments that must also be produced in an alternative pattern. And all of this while the Army is still in the throes of a complete roll out of the UCP pattern. Who will foot the bill? Congress has essentially issued budgetary guidance to the Army to reprogram funds.